In late February, I packed all of my belongings into a Penske truck and left the life I built in North Carolina. The weight of it even felt different than when I left my home in Kentucky six years before. I thought the Lord led me to North Carolina for seminary, but it was that and so much more. The family, friends, church, and community I found there made that season of life so much richer.
It mattered how I left. Though I had a new and exciting opportunity ahead of me, it was important that I not get ahead of myself. I knew that doing so could hurt the people who loved me and the people I loved so dearly. While doing my best to be intentional with feeling my own grief, I wanted to be intentional with the grief of my loved ones too. I wanted to make sure they knew how much they meant to me and how thankful I was for them. I wanted them to know that I was sad, too, and that I cared about how they were feeling.
I was reminded of David and Jonathan, a famous pair of friends in the Old Testament. “Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and wept with each other, though David wept more. Jonathan then said to David, “Go in the assurance the two of us pledged in the name of the Lord when we said, ‘The Lord will be a witness between you and me and between my offspring and your offspring forever.’ “Then David left, and Jonathan went into the city” (1 Samuel 20:41–42).
When time came for David to flee the wrath of King Saul (Jonathan’s own father!), the grief for the two of them was deep. They did not know if they would ever see each other again. After a season of running and hiding, David would one day be the king of Israel. But David didn’t let what was in front of him keep him from tending to who would soon be behind him. He spent time weeping with Jonathan and they assured one another of their enduring love.
Jesus also modeled leaving for us. As Israel’s true King, He too would soon be ascending to a throne. There was glory ahead of Him but He did not forget those He was leaving behind. Jesus left with His loved ones the promise of His peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit to remind them of who He is. This was an act of love and care.
When it’s time to leave the people you love, how you leave matters. Is there a big transition ahead of you? Feel free to celebrate with your people! When God brings something new and exciting into your life, it’s okay to feel joy and anticipation. But don’t forget to love, comfort and assure your loved ones as you go. Be careful with their grief and sadness. Spend time with them as you can and remind them that they are special to you. In your intentionality with your transition, you will communicate that though your presence might move, your love will not.
There was another gift in leaving well. I was able to take with me the assurance that the ones who loved me would love me wherever I am. In my vulnerability and care for them, they also cared for me. Time will tell how these relationships will shift and change. Distance has a way of doing that. What I do know is that neither party was left wondering how the other felt. Leaving well strengthened the foundation for friendships moving forward—no matter where we are.
Additional resources on depending on Christ during change